Paladin rides into a town in the middle of a storm, and goes into the local saloon. He avoids the barflies fighting, and tells Marshal Jim Brock that he's overdue in Santa Fee. Brock figures that it's Saturday night and the barflies are just letting off steam. Brock points out that Brock took the wrong fork and walks off. A drinker, Stub, says that he's a stubborn cowboy and takes offense Paladin's reaction to the alcohol. Paladin explains that it's Old Horse Blankets, and made out of mash strained through an old horse blanket. Stub asks if Paladin has something against horses, and Jim comes over and interrupts the brewing fight. He tells Paladin that Maggie can fix Paladin up with some food.
Paladin sits down and one of the diners, a shepherd named Ramon Bagaras, flirts with Maggie. She isn't interested and the other diner, Svenska, tells Ramon to put his gun away. He and Ramon start arguing about who has been killing his sheep. Paladin gets caught in the middle and a fight breaks out when Stub comes over and Ramon accuses him of killing sheep. Svenska tosses Paladin through a window, knocking him out.
The next morning, Paladin wakes up in a cell with Stub, Svenska, Ramon, and a drunk named Kip. Maggie brings them food and wonders why Paladin is there. He says that Brock swept up the innocent with the guilty, and Kip warns that Brock collects fines from everyone he arrests, whether they're guilty or innocent. Maggie objects, saying that Brock was the only person decent enough to let her work. Svenska apologies for starting a fight, but Maggie says that the next time he loses whatever money he makes, he'll be drinking again.
Ramon is apparently sleeping, and Maggie yells at him to wake up. Brock calls Maggie into the next room, and Svenska asks Paladin to stay away from Maggie. Paladin tries to wake up Ramon and discovers that he's dead, his neck broken. Ramon was apparently clubbed to death. Paladin calls Brock in and tells him that Ramon is dead.
Brock asks which of them that they hang, and warns them that Ramon has a big proud family behind them that won't stand for one of their own being killed. He tells the prisoners to talk it over, and Paladin advises him to find the guilty party since it's his jail. Kip insists that it must be Paladin and Stub agrees. Svenska isn't so sure, and Brock points out that Svenska is strong enough to break a man's neck and he'd kill for Maggie. The burly man quickly agrees with the others, and Paladin points out that the Bagaras know that Stub has been killing their sheep. He notes that he was the only one who didn't wish Ramon any harm, and Kip shows Brock Paladin's card that he took from him. Kip has also taken Paladin's derringer, and Paladin insists that he's innocent.
As Brock goes, Stub tells him that he has to get out of there because the Bagaras won't listen. He offers to pay his fine if Brock lets him go, but Brock orders him in. Stub starts backing to the door, and Brock guns him down. Maggie runs in, and Brock says that Stub knew he had the goods on him so he tried to run. Kip eagerly agrees, but Paladin says that Stub was no killer. Brock orders Maggie back into the office and asks Paladin if he's going to cooperate. Paladin warns that "justice" like Brock's has a way of bouncing back, and remembers that Ramon has a big stack of money at the saloon. Svenska confirms it, and Paladin points out that the money isn't in Ramon's wallet. He figures that Kip took the money, and Kip denies it. Brock doesn't care, pointing out that the Bagaras want a live man to kill.
Kip continues to deny that he took the money, and Brock orders Paladin out of the cell. Paladin says that he's going to stay in the cell, and points out that if Brock kills him then Svenska will talk. If Brock kills him then Brock will have to worry about Maggie, and Brock says that he doesn't have to worry about Maggie. Paladin invites Brock to try and take him out, and Brock backs down and closes the cell door. However, he says that he'll bring the Bagaras there and then hand over Stub or Paladin, Paladin's choice.
Once they're alone, Paladin demands to know who has Ramon's missing $2,000. He finds a knife in Kip's boot but no money, and Svenska invites Paladin to search him. Paladin finds $300 on him, and Svenska says that it's his and he plans to get married. However, he admits that it's nothing compared to what Ramon could have given Maggie. Paladin figures that Maggie has the money, and calls her in over Svenska's objections. He tells her that the $2,000 is missing, and asks her to look in Stub's pockets for them.
As Maggie searches the corpse, Ramon's father Francisco and his sons Juanito and Pepe arrive with the family dogs. Brock claims that he had to shoot Stub, and Francisco looks at his son's corpse. Paladin offers his condolences, and then asks Brock where the money is. Svenska accuses him of taking the money, and Paladin says that if they find the money then they'll find the killer. Brock says that he's the marshal while the others are drifters, sheep killers, and hired guns. Francisco tells son Juanito to search Brock, and Brock draws his gun. Maggie tells Brock that she had faith in him, Brock says that he's entitled to the money and grabs Maggie as a hostage.
Brock runs out and Pepe unleashes the dogs on him. Paladin tries to go out to stop them, insisting that it's no trial, but Svenska and Kip hold him back until the dogs tear Brock apart. Francisco tells Paladin that he who takes the wrong road makes the journey twice.
Written by Gadfly on Jan 1, 2018